View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

  1. Media Law
August 10, 2015updated 11 Aug 2015 1:30pm

Police Scotland under pressure over RIPA allegations – and Nicola Sturgeon urged to ‘come clean’ over what she knew

By William Turvill and Press Association

Police Scotland is coming under increasing pressure over allegations it unlawfully snooped on journalists to find their sources.

And Scotland's First Minister, the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon (pictured, Reuters), has been told by Labour to "come clean" over what she knew about the allegations.

At the beginning of this month, the Sunday Herald newspaper accused Police Scotland of using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to secretly obtain journalistic phone records without judicial approval since the law was changed to prevent this practice in March.

The stopgap law change came after a six-month Press Gazette campaign, Save Our Sources. 

Following the Sunday Herald story, BBC journalist Eamon O'Connor revealed that a "very dependable source" had told him his records had been targeted.

He suspects that Police Scotland grabbed his records because of his coverage of a "screwed up" murder inquiry.

And the Sunday Mail newspaper (below) reported this weekend that its sources may have been sought after also.

Content from our partners
How PA Media is helping newspapers make the digital transition
Publishing on the open web is broken, how generative AI could help fix it
Impress: Regulation, arbitration and complaints resolution

Both the Sunday Mail and O'Connor investigated Police Scotland's handling of the inquiry into Emma Caldwell's murder.

Police Scotland has refused to confirm or deny the allegations that it went after their sources.

The claims that Police Scotland has unlawfully used RIPA to find journalists' sources has also featured on the front pages of the Herald, Sunday Herald and The National.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Herald reported this weekend that Scotland's First Minister Sturgeon was made aware of claims that Police Scotland has illegally monitored communications between journalists and their contacts before a report by the Interception of Communications Commissioner's Office (IOCCO) was published.

Labour's justice spokesman Hugh Henry responded by saying: "If it's true that Nicola Sturgeon knew about these allegations even before IOCCO reported on this then it's extremely serious.

"The First Minister now needs to come clean on her involvement and that of any of her Ministers.

"Nicola Sturgeon can't continue to hide behind IOCCO.

"If the allegations are proven to be true then it brings into question the First Minister's judgment in giving her full backing to the Chief Constable.

"If the First Minister won't tell us today what the involvement of the Scottish Government has been, then she will have to spell out the details in answer to the Parliamentary Questions and Freedom of Information requests which I have submitted."

IOCCO announced last month that it has ''identified that two police forces had acquired communications data to identify the interactions between journalists and their sources without obtaining judicial approval''.

It has been alleged that Police Scotland is one of these forces.

Labour has already lodged a motion at the Scottish Parliament demanding ''full transparency from the Scottish Government about what exactly it knows regarding the allegations about spying on journalists and their sources'', while the Liberal Democrats have called for a Holyrood inquiry.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "The investigation of the reported breaches is ongoing and is a matter for IOCCO.

"The Justice Secretary has outlined in detail why he agrees with IOCCO that it would be wholly inappropriate to make public the identity of the two police forces while their investigation is ongoing.

"It is therefore not appropriate to comment further while the investigations are ongoing. However, if there are any issues arising out of these investigations, they should be fully addressed by the appropriate bodies when they have concluded."

Topics in this article : , , ,

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network